Could all of the work some automakers are doing to increase diesel engine adoption in the US be going up in a cloud of smoke? Maybe so, as torquier and more fuel-efficient gasoline engines and cheapening hybrid technology are cutting into what had been perceived as the advantages of diesel drivetrains, the Detroit News says.

While companies like General Motors and Chrysler have announced plans to add diesel models, Ford, Toyota and Hyundai are eschewing the technology for passenger cars. Hyundai CEO John Krafcik estimated that a diesel-powered car costs, on average, $5,000 more than a similar gas-powered car, while the price premium for hybrid-powered vehicles is about $1,500.

US diesel sales jumped 25 percent last year, but diesels still only account for 2.7 percent of the overall market.

Additionally, gas engines are being developed to deliver more torque at the low end, which provides one of diesels benefits without the drawback of (currently) about 36 cents more per gallon compared to regular unleaded. While US diesel-vehicle sales did jump 25 percent last year, they still only account for about 2.7 percent of new US cars, or slightly less than hybrids' market share, the newspaper says, citing Edmunds. Diesels account for about half of the new vehicles sold in Europe.

In February, General Motors unveiled the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, which will be GM's first diesel passenger car in the US since the 1986 Chevrolet Chevette. The Cruze Diesel, which is turbocharged, will deliver 148 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque as well as 42 miles per gallon highway fuel economy.

Late last year, Germany's largest automakers, including Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, joined up for their "Clean Diesel. Clearly Better." campaign, which promoted diesels as a relatively inexpensive way to boost fuel economy and combat rising refueling prices. Last year, VW's clean-diesel sales jumped 32 percent from 2011 to almost 83,000 units, while diesel sales for Audi in the US were down 1.6 percent to 7,179 vehicles.


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